2019 Retirement Havens

It’s been widely acknowledged that Americans work too much and for too long. While retirement is seen by many as the perfect opportunity to travel, explore new passions, and enjoy the fruits of many years of labor, for many people retirement seems too expensive. With the high cost of medical care, lightening fast pace of life, and often extreme weather in the United States, it’s no wonder that many look to other countries to spend part or all of their retirement years.

There are many exciting and affordable countries in which to explore during your retirement, but people looking to maximize their money can find some of the best deals for retirees just south of the border in Central America and the Caribbean. This region is known for its impressive history, warm people, beautiful weather, ease of travel to the U.S., and relatively inexpensive cost of living, but the charms don’t end there. Here are some of the incredible programs offered to retirees in these countries.

Belize

Belize offers what they call the Qualified Retirement Program, or QRP. This program allows eligible applicants to permanently live, retire, and relax in beautiful Belize.

Benefits

  • Residence Card – You and your qualified dependents (spouse and children under age 18) will receive a residence card which allows you to come and go from Belize without a visa
  • During the first year you are enrolled in this program, you receive duty-free tax exemptions on your personal belongings as you bring them into the country. Qualifying items include personal boats, vehicles, and light aircraft.
  • Additional tax exemptions – QRP enrollees are exempt from paying Belizean tax on all income received from outside the country, any capital gains tax and any inheritance tax on received funds.

Eligibility

  • Must be 45 years old or older
  • Must have a pension, annuity, or similar funds of at least $2,000/month or $24,000/year from a source outside of Belize
  • You must deposit the funds from above in a Belizean financial institution
  • Must pass a security clearance by the Ministry of National Security of Belize
  • Remain in Belize for at least 30 consecutive days each year

Application Information: Application can by found on the Belize Tourism Board’s website

Ready to make the leap? Find a home in  Belize on RealtyHive!


Panama

Panama raises the bar on best places to retire with its world-renowned “pensionado” program. This program doesn’t just allow foreign citizens to live in Panama, but also includes incredible benefits for those that do.

Benefits

  • Discounts of up to 50% on entertainment (movie and theater tickets, concerts, sporting events) and hotels; 30% off bus, boat, and train fares; 25% off airline tickets and monthly energy bills and 15% off hospital bills (unless insurance applies)
  • One-time exemption of duties on the import of household goods (up to $10,000) and tax exemptions every two years on the import or purchase of a car
  • Grandfathered pensionado status. If the laws for acceptance into this program change, your status will remain unchanged

Eligibility

  • Must have a pension (or similar) of at least $1,000/month
  • Applications for the program as reviewed on a case-by-case basis and do not have a minimum age to qualify

Learn more about the pensionado program by checking out “Panama for Retirees” or find your perfect Panama home on RealtyHive

Application Information:  You’ll need an immigration lawyer in Panama to complete many of the steps. Learn more about the details of this process by visiting the Embassy of Panama website

Ecuador

While many people don’t immediately think of this South American nation as a prime retirement destination, Ecuador has grown in popularity in recent years. As one of the world’s most biodiverse places, this country is perfect for adventurous retirees looking for excellent value for their money. This program is a little less straightforward than others requiring a temporary visa for the first two years of residency and then a permanent residency visa can be applied for.

Benefits:

  • 50% off public transportation, airfare, cultural/sports/artistic/recreational events, and electricity/water/telephone services
  • Discounts on property, income, and vehicle taxes as well as a refund of sales tax
  • Pay no taxes on foreign income
  • Import household goods duty free within 6 months after obtaining residency

Eligibility:

  • Must show guaranteed income of at least $800/month, plus an extra $100/month for each dependent joining you.
    • Note: If the income comes from a source other than pension or Social Security income (like investment dividends or income from a trust), the amount of $800 per month for 5 years ($48,000) must be deposited in an Ecuadorian bank in advance
  • Cannot leave Ecuador for more than 90 days in calendar year during first or second year of holding the visa
  • Must have proof of private health insurance or must be affiliated with Ecuador’s social security system

Application Information: Ministry of International Relations and Immigration (Ministerio de Relaciones Exteriores y Movilidad Humana) https://www.cancilleria.gob.ec/wp-content/uploads/2018/10/formulario_de_solicitud_de_visa.pdf

Colombia

From the 1970s to the mid-2000s, the news out of Colombia was not great for anyone looking for a peaceful retirement destination. Between guerilla factions, political unrest, and a deadly drug war, Colombia was seen as a dangerous place for tourists and citizens alike. These days, Colombia is a relatively safe country where you can enjoy incredible natural wonders and lively cultural. While Colombia’s benefits for retirees aren’t quite as robust or codified into law like in other countries, the low financial requirements and low cost of living make this a great choice for retirement.

Benefits:

  • Can be converted to a Resident visa after 5 years

Eligibility:

  • Must be at least 18 years old to apply
  • Must have a pension of at least 3 times the Colombian monthly minimum wage (approximately $766 per month as of June 2049)
    • A second, almost identical program allows for qualification with non-pension income such as interest or dividends. This program requires at least 10 times the monthly minimum wage or just over $2550 per month

Application Information: Application can be found by visiting the Minister of International Relations website

Author’s Note: This article contains research done in June 2019 and should be considered a starting point of research only. Tax, benefit, real estate, and other laws are constantly changing and it’s important for you to consult relevant licensed professionals when making big, important decisions.

train depot turned house

Trains, Planes, and Barns, Oh My! How to Sell a Unique Home

Everyone has a different idea of the perfect house. Some people envision a quaint ranch home with the perfect little white fence while others dream of a classic Victorian filled with character and charm while others like a clean, modern esthetic or prefer the lower maintenance of condo living. While many homes appeal to a wide array of buyers, some homes have a more niche appeal. Homes that have been converted from their original (usually commercial) forms fall into that list. While the real estate market continues to sizzle as homes are in short supply and demand is rising, these converted homes and their unique features can require a bit more specialized marketing to sell.

Show ‘Em What You Got

The first thing to do when selling a unique home is to have excellent pictures. Most buyers have never thought of living in a “luxe bohemian converted barn” or “modernized industrial train depot” so high quality pictures help transition buyers from intrigued to interested.

Think Outside the Box

A unique home tends to be a point of extreme pride for those who live there, but it does take a unique buyer when trying to sell. These properties often come at a higher price point than a standard single family home, so they aren’t for every buyer. Advertising for a unique property should be done in all the usual channels (MLS if you’re an agent or working for one, for example), but it’s also a good idea to think a little differently. Trying to sell a mushroom home? Why not let a local mushroom hunter-foragers group know it’s for sale? Got a gypsy style converted barn? You’d be remiss to not tell the local artist community.

Find the Story

Few people move into a unique property because it was just a random house in their price range and even fewer take on a conversion project without a reason. There is almost always a story to tell; maybe they have a special connection to the building in its original use or maybe they’re handy and were looking for a creative way to use their talents. Maybe they inherited the building and were inspired to revitalize it. Whatever the case may be, the story behind it can help generate more buzz on a larger scale than just “there’s a new house for sale.” Questions to ask about the property can include:

  • How long have you owned/ lived in the property?
  • What made you decide to do a project like this?
  • Why did you decide to convert the train depot specifically (love trains, great opportunity for local project, etc)?
  • Did you do it yourself or hire someone?
  • What was the most difficult part about the project?
  • What was your favorite part of the process?
  • Did the reality live up to your expectations?
  • What’s your favorite part of the current property?
  • What’s your advice for someone taking on a project like this?

If your listing has a great story, make sure to share the story on social media and share it with local media outlets — you never know when a slow news day will lead to your property being featured!

Show It Off

While selling a unique home can be a challenge, it can also be a lot of fun! These properties have a “WOW” factor that many cookie cutter homes do not. Once you have good photos and a listing description that is well written and keyword-filled, you’re ready to show it off. Social media and content aggregation sites like Buzzfeed tend to go nuts over beautiful, funky, and unique homes and can bring tons of exposure to the property which in turn increase your opportunities to sell.

Still struggling to get the exposure you need to sell your unique home? RealtyHive offers marketing programs and time-limited events that help to create the exposure you need when it comes to selling a unique home!

dog with eyes closed

Doggy Dream Home

Doesn’t your best friend deserve a great home?

Dear humans, I would first like to thank you for taking me into your home and treating me like one of your own. That being said, I have a couple of requests to make that would turn our nice house into a dog’s absolute doggy dream home!

The life of a dog can be pretty tiring. I mean the amount of time we spend bringing back toys to humans who continue to through them far away is crazy! You’d think their arm would get tired after a while. The walks, the tug of war, the effort put into begging for one small piece of food really takes the fuel out of a dog like me. When humans go to bed they get luxurious fluffy beds to lay in, but us dogs get the smelly, dirty, cold floor. I understand to some 8 hours on the floor, by themselves, in complete silence and darkness may seem like a luxury, but personally…not feeling it. So I propose a revamping of my current sleep situation.

Sweet Dreams for Your Bestest Boy

If you’ve got the space to share, a room of my very own, complete with a welcome mat and dog bed and all my favorite toys would really make a dog feel loved.

Not only would a little room of my own allow me a nice retreat when things get crazy (and be way more attractive than the old metal kennel), but building one under the stairs is also a great use of otherwise dead space.

It’s no secret that I like to stay close to you guys and the night can seem long and even scary when I’m laying all by myself. That’s why I propose an elevated dog bed that allows me to stay close to you without taking up any room in your bed. I promise I won’t howl, or bark, or run in my sleep, it’ll be like I’m not even there; promise.  

A Spot for Spot

There is nothing I love more than our family movie time. After you all get done with whatever you humans spend so much time doing Monday through Friday and we get to cuddle up to watch our favorite shows. I love it more than when I get the leftover peanut butter in the peanut butter jar, but it always ends with you upset about all the fur on the couch, so I found this one just for you! It’s a dog bed that slides out from under the couch, a bed, or anywhere else you’ll let me hang out with you! This way we can still have our movie nights and you can still sit on the couch without getting fur all over! Win-win right?

Here’s another idea. When we all gather around the TV at night, I feel like everyone in the family has a designated place to sit, except me. Everyone has their spot on the couch or their recliner so I was thinking I should have my spot as well. Won’t I looks so cute on a little couch like this?!

Feeding Fido

The only thing more important to us dogs than sleep is food. Any food you give me I’ll eat, any food you drop I’ll eat, anything you make I’ll eat, and I’ll say it one more time for the dogs in the back, I will eat anything. You’ll always get a 5-star Yelp review from me. This means that my doggy dream home should be stacked with homemade dog treats. I mean I’m a good boy, don’t I deserve these treats?

Yogurt peanut butter banana homemade dog treats are a favorite. A doggy dream snack some may call it. If I had thumbs maybe I’d make them myself, but until then I NEED you to help me out!

Doggy donuts. If your mouth didn’t water reading that then you probably didn’t read it right, or maybe your just not a dog. Regardless, I, as a dog, really would like these… in my mouth….right now.

Frosty breath dog treats. This one could be a treat for you too!I mean not a treat you’d eat, but you humans are always talking about our dog breathe and how bad it is (which is kinda rude not gonna lie), so maybe it could be considered a treat for your nose.

Field of Doggy Dreams

Besides our house, the majority of my time is spent out in our yard. Which, don’t get me wrong we have a pretty great yard, but there is always room for improvement in the doggy dream world. I’ve done some research and found a couple possible additions that could turn us into the #1 dog hangout spot of the year.

You know what’s a great way to relax the muscles after a long walk or day at the park; a relaxing swim. I have this feeling I wouldn’t be very welcomed to join you while you’re in the tub so I was thinking maybe I should get a little bone-shaped pool of my own.

Needing to go is just a natural part of life, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be enjoyable. I know this seems a little excessive for a place to relieve myself, but sitting on the toilet for 30 minutes on your phone could be considered a little excessive as well, so let’s keep our judgments to ourselves. Besides I’m sure you guys are tired of me killing the grass anyhow and this would be the perfect way to keep your grass green all year long.

The best thing the backyard could have is a window to the outside world. My world consists of the house, the front yard, and the backyard which after a while starts to feel a little small. A window like the one I found below really makes everything feel more open to a dog.

Puppy Kisses & Doggy Dreams

There isn’t any clear category to list all of my further additions under, but nevertheless, they are all crucial to the success of my personal doggy dream home.

Want to know what is one of the worst parts about being a dog, other than the lack of thumbs? It’s not being able to use the bathroom when your body decides it’s time to go. You couldn’t imagine how long I’ve held it, sitting in front of the door, waiting for one, just one human to come open the door. Well, I have found a solution to this issue — potty bells. Please consider this one greatly from me and your carpets.

Do you ever feel like you just need some you time? Well, this may come as a surprise, but I do too! Sometimes I need a nice nap to rest off all the stress in my doggy life, but there is no place in the house that I can go and just be closed off. Each of you humans have your room and if getting a doggy room is out of the question, maybe this will work. Here’s how you can turn my crate into a nice piece of furniture and a quiet corner for me to rest!

Next on my list: A doggy wash station made just for me. I understand that a doggy wash station is an investment, but I think you’ll love the benefits of it just as much as I’ll love resting in it. No one has ever complained about a clean dog, and if you get me those sweet smelling bottles from the pet store I’ll look good, I’ll smell good, and you’ll be able to walk me around the neighborhood with your head held high because you have the cleanest dog in town!

Do you wanna know why dogs are bad when you’re gone? It’s because we have no reason to be good. If we’re good while your home we get a treat, but if we’re good when you’re gone…nothing. That’s why this genius human thought to have an automatic treat dispenser controlled by phone so you can reward your dog for being good even when you’re gone. I’ll take one of these, please and thank you!

As we talked about, I will eat just about anything, but that doesn’t mean I enjoy being uncivilized. Sometimes getting my kibble in a classy presentation would be nice. Here’s where I introduce the cool thing I found: my dog bowls in a drawer. I know so simple yet so fancy.

All of these things are great, and yes, they would make our home much more exciting and comfortable for me, but none of this really makes a house a doggy dream home. When I really think about it, it’s you, my humans that complete my doggy dream home. So as long as I have you I don’t need the treat launchers, the hot tub, or the handmade treats. As far as I am concerned you’re the most important addition to my dream home. I guess there’s a reason we call you a dog’s best friend!

From, Your best friend

P.S. If you’re looking for a new home for us, I’ve got a good idea where you should check……

Real Estate Trivia

Jeopardy has been around for 55 years, but it was James Holzhauer’s epic streak on the game show that has renewed interest in fans from around the world. His aggressive and unique playing style mixed with his seemingly infinite amount of knowledge made his 32-game winning streak an lightening rod for viewership.

While his time on the show may have come to an end before he was able to break the impressive 74-game and $2.52 million streak of Ken Jennings, Holzhauer has inspired a trivia game of our own.

Famous for its high real estate prices, this US state is home to the highest percentage of renters vs owners
Holding the title of “World’s Most Expensive Home” this dwelling is fit for a Queen
This interior design style, popularized in the 1950’s focuses on functionality, geometric forms, minimal ornamentation, and a vast range of colors
With plenty of natural beauty, this US state has long been the most expensive to live in
These Texans are known more for their shiplap fixes than their real estate flops
With an average of 1768sqft, this US state boasts the largest average home size in the nation
Once home to the King, this home now operates as popular attraction complete with themed restaurants, events, tours, and more
Popular both as a hairstyle and floor covering, this style dominated the 1970’s
The US picked up this large piece of real estate in 1867 for just $0.02/acre
Seeing nothing but swampland and opportunity, this person famously picked up the first acre of land where Mickey would make his home for $80
Located in this nation, Istana Nurul Iman holds the World Record as the world’s largest residence of a state head
Once a personal residence, this architectural wonder is now an attraction featuring more than 10,000 windows, 2,000 doors, 160 rooms, and 47 stairs and fireplaces
These large filament bulbs aren’t always the most energy-efficient, but their beauty led them to be a major trend in the 2010s
Nicknamed “The Mountain” and listed at $1 Billion, this 157-acre parcel is the most expensive real estate ever offered for sale and is located in this U.S. city
A prolific creator, this designer and architect drafted more than 1,000 structures and founded the “Usonian” style
This country is home to the Copan Building, the largest apartment building in the world with more than 5,000 residents
Located in Virginia, this estate was once home to the author of the Declaration of Independence
This 1990s interior design trend used marine life, real or manufactured, to style the walls
The most unaffordable market where a skilled service worker needs to work more than 20 years to afford to purchase 650sqft apartment near the city center
This famous patriot directly oversaw the construction of the “President’s Palace”, but never lived in it
Built in 1553, the oldest Governor’s mansion in the US is located in this territory
Cleveland is where you’ll find this movie home-turned-museum with it’s iconic leg lamp in the front window
This minty shade was one of the early hues used by American Standard to color everything from faucets to toilets
With a median home price of $64,300, this Texas town is the cheapest beach city in America
With a price tag of $238 million, this hegde-fund manager closed on the most expensive property in the U.S. in early 2019

Answers

Spoilers ahead!

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Location, Location, Location
  • 200 – New York
  • 400 – Utah
  • 600 – Brunei
  • 800 – Brazil
  • 1000 – Puerto Rico
Famous Homes
  • 200 – Buckingham Palace
  • 400 – Graceland
  • 600 – Winchester Mystery House (Winchester Mansion)
  • 800 – Monticello
  • 1000 – Bumpus House
Interior Designs
  • 200 – Mid-Century Modern
  • 400 – Shag
  • 600 – Edison Bulbs
  • 800 – Sponge Painting
  • 1000 – Ming Green
Market Madness
  • 200 – Hawaii
  • 400 – Alaska
  • 600 – Los Angeles
  • 800 – Hong Kong
  • 1000 – Port Arthur
House Hunters
  • 200 – Chip & Joanna Gaines
  • 400 – Walt Disney
  • 600 – Frank Lloyd Wright
  • 800 – George Washington
  • 1000 – Ken Griffin